Dr Lulu Zhang Appointed as Member of the Sino-EU Panel on Land and Soil

  • 2018/08/07     Ispra, Italy

    By Atiqah Fairuz Salleh, Communications and Advocacy

    As the interdependencies between soil management and its resulting ecosystem services become more evident, research on the subject has also grown in importance and relevance. The pertinent work of Dr Lulu Zhang in the area, particularly in China, has given her an entry point to the European Union (EU) policy realm.

    With a background in soil science and hydrology, Dr Zhang is a Research Associate with the Soil and Land-Use Management unit at UNU-FLORES. This year she has been appointed as an Individual Expert on the Sino-EU Panel on Land and Soil (SEPLS), the bilateral body of scientific exchange between Europe and China on the field of soil and land resource sciences.

    The Sino-EU Panel on Land and Soil (SEPLS)

    The SEPLS is a scientific body that provides the European Commission with advice and expertise on the current state of land and soil resources and potential environmental and socioeconomic consequences of their future utilisation patterns.

    It was established in 2010 on the initiative of the EU Commissioner and Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences with the input of leading soil scientists and land system researchers from various disciplines within the land resources domain and covering geographical areas of both China and the EU.

    The establishment of the Panel facilitates official and well-structured information exchange between Chinese and European decision makers to harmonise the knowledge base for well-coordinated responses to threats on soil and land resources.

    Individual Experts on SEPLS are appointed in her/his personal capacity. Dr Lulu Zhang’s appointment is a recognition of her valuable contributions to the research on land and soil – both scientifically and in terms of policy relevance.

    Dr Zhang is particularly interested in interdisciplinary research related to soil, water, and land management and their socio-ecological impacts. Looking at the wise use of multifunctional land-use systems in problem areas with land degradation and water stress through a holistic view to balance the supply of ecosystem services is her primary motivation. While she first started out working on ecological conservation and its interaction with soil and hydrology, most recently, she started applying the lens of governance in her work and is beginning to see the benefits of strengthening the science-policy interface.

    “Europe and China need to deal with similar challenges in different contexts. Information exchange and collaboration are vital for formulating proper development strategies and policies to cope with natural and socioeconomic pressures on soil and land resource. SEPLS provides an excellent platform for this. I am honoured to be given the opportunity to contribute to this initiative.”

    – Dr Lulu Zhang


    At the First Working Session of the SEPLS in Ispra, Italy last week, Dr Lulu Zhang joined experts to discuss the future set-up and activities of the Panel. Besides presenting panel members and discussing organisational matters pertaining to the SEPLS, its Executive Committee, and the Secretariat, the Panel also set up the work programme – they identified the main areas of activity, established working groups, and discussed about inviting experts and observers.

    Dr Zhang was the only representative from the UN System. Out of the four working groups established, she is contributing to three, namely: Working Group on Awareness Raising and Communication, Working Group on Natural Capital Accounting and Innovative Financing Mechanisms, and Working Group on SDGs and Land and Soil.

    While Dr Zhang’s SEPLS membership is a recent development, UNU-FLORES’s work is not foreign to the Panel. In 2016, Dr Kai Schwärzel, Head of Soil and Land-Use Management and currently the Officer-in-Charge of UNU-FLORES, had been invited to give a presentation at the SEPLS plenary meeting in Beijing.

    UNU-FLORES has also entered into a partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who spearheads the SEPLS. In particular, cooperation agreements were signed in 2015 with the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (CAS-IGSNNR) and in the subsequent year with the Institute of Soil and Water Conservation (CAS-ISWC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Among the outcomes of the cooperation agreements is the publication of the book Multifunctional Land-Use Systems for Managing the Nexus of Environmental Resources (Springer) edited by Dr Lulu Zhang and Dr Kai Schwärzel.